STILLWATER, Okla. - The Alabama women's golf team rolled to a 7-2-1 combined match play record against No. 7 seed Kent State and No. 3 seed USC in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Tuesday to clinch a berth in the championship match of the 2018 NCAA Women's Golf Championships.
The No. 2 seeded Crimson Tide will meet No. 8 seed Arizona in Wednesday's final at the par-72, 6,328-yard Karsten Creek Golf Club to determine this year's national champion. The title match berth is the first for Alabama since the NCAA adopted the current match-play format in 2015.
"We got off to a good start today and just let it ride," UA head coach Mic Potter said. "It's a national championship, it's not hard to stay motivated. We try to match our best player against their best player and match everyone in a way that gives them a chance to win. I don't believe in sacrificing anyone. I want everyone to have a chance to win." The Tide opened the day with 4-1 victory over No. 7 seed Kent State in the morning quarterfinals as juniors Cheyenne Knight and Lauren Stephenson, sophomore Kristen Gillman and freshman Angelica Moresco posted wins against the Golden Flashes out of the Mid-American Conference.
Alabama took control of the match early and led four of the five matches at the turn. Stephenson picked up the first win of the round for the Tide with a 3-and-2 victory over Kent State's Pimnipa Panthong. Moresco posted a 5-and-3 win over Chloe Salort to put Alabama up 2-0 before Gillman and Knight clinched the match with 2-and-1 and 4-and-3 wins, respectively, over Michaela Finn and Kory Nielsen.
The victory put Tide into the semifinals against third-seeded USC, which handed No. 6 seed Duke a 3-1-1 quarterfinal defeat to advance.
The Crimson Tide controlled the semifinal from the outset, staying tied or in the lead in the team score throughout the match. As with the quarterfinal, Stephenson was the first to clinch a win against the Trojans, recording a 3-and-2 victory over Jennifer Chang with a par on 17. Gillman followed right behind on 17 with a 3-and-1 win over Amelia Garvey. Knight continued the run with a match-sealing birdie on 17 against Allisen Corpuz for a 3-and-1 win and a 3-1-1 final team tally.
"On 17 it really helps to have good drivers who have confidence and can pick a target and pretty much hit it where they're looking," Potter added. "Once you get it in the fairway, it's not as threatening as you think. But you've got to drive it in the fairway. We did that really well in both matches."
Arizona reached the championship match on the strength of upsets of top-seeded UCLA (3-2) in the quarterfinals and fifth-seeded Stanford (4-1) in the semifinals. The Wildcats were the last team to qualify for match play after beating Baylor in a playoff in a stroke-play playoff on Sunday afternoon.
With a win on Wednesday, Alabama would clinch its second national championship in women's golf. Potter's 2011-12 squad won the school's first national golf title at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Franklin, Tenn.
Coverage of Wednesday's championship match will air live on the Golf Channel beginning at 3 p.m. CT.
NCAA Women's Golf Championships
Karsten Creek Golf Club
Host: Oklahoma State University
Match Play Quarterfinal Results
2 ALABAMA d. 7 Kent State, 4-1
3 USC d. 6 Duke, 3-1-1
8 Arizona d. 1 UCLA, 3-2
5 Stanford d. 4 Northwestern, 3-2
Alabama-Kent State Results
Lauren Stephenson (Alabama) d. Pimnipa Panthong (Kent State), 3-and-2
Kristen Gillman (Alabama) d. Michaela Finn (Kent State), 2-and-1
Karoline Stormo (Kent State) d. Lakareber Abe (Alabama), 2-and-1
Angelica Moresco (Alabama) d. Chloe Salort (Kent State), 5-and-3
Cheyenne Knight (Alabama) d. Kory Nielsen (Kent State), 4-and-3
Match Play Semifinals Results
2 ALABAMA d. 3 USC, 3-1-1
8 Arizona d. 5 Stanford, 4-1
Lauren Stephenson (Alabama) d. Jennifer Chang (USC), 2-and-1
Kristen Gillman (Alabama) d. Amelia Garvey (USC), 3-and-1
Cheyenne Knight (Alabama) d. Allisen Corpuz (USC), 3-and-1
Alyaa Abdulghany (USC) d. Lakareber Abe (Alabama), 1 up
Angelica Moresco (Alabama) vs. Gabriela Ruffels (USC), all square
2 ALABAMA vs. 8 Arizona
Lauren Stephenson (Alabama) vs. You-Sang Hou (Arizona)
Kristen Gillman (Alabama) vs. Gigi Stoll (Arizona)
Cheyenne Knight (Alabama) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (Arizona)
Angelica Moresco (Alabama) vs. Sandra Nordaas (Arizona)
Lakareber Abe (Alabama) vs. Haley Moore (Arizona)